Lamonta mission retreat permit stopped by state law
State administrative rules dictate that only churches and schools can be in a farm zone, and then only under certain conditions, a situation that stopped one couple's plansWhen the county planning commission took up the application for a permit allowing a mission retreat and gallery Wednesday evening, they discovered the decision had already been made for them.
Richard and Margaret Szymanski had applied for a permit to put their property to this use a month ago. At that time, after hearing from those in favor and those opposed to the request, the planners decided to table the matter. At that meeting, the county legal counselor had another commitment and wasn't in attendance. Without his advice, commission members chose not to make a decision.
Taking up the gavel and starting the process all over again, Planning Commission Chairman Chet Petersen explained that the state Land Conservation and Development Commission had become involved. In a letter to the county, LCDC pointed out two concerns they have with the request.
County Planning Director Bill Zelenka explained that whenever a permit application for something in an EFU (exclusive farm use) zone is filed, a copy of that application is sent to LCDC. In the letter dated Nov. 11, the LCDC board explained their concerns.
First, according to Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) only churches and schools are permitted in EFU zones. Also, those can only be located on land that is not valuable farm land. Another section of the OAR's states then only if the church or school is three miles beyond the Urban Growth Boundary. Szymanski's property, Petersen said, is about a mile from the UGB.
Before receiving the letter from LCDC, the county planners had raised a number of issues that would have to be addressed. These ranged from parking requirements, the number of parking spaces and their sizes, as well as safety issues concerning the swimming pool. Before the county would allow the permit, Petersen said, the property would have to meet all county code requirements.
However, with the LCDC ruling, the question was moot.
Petersen referred to the planning commission's experience with the Mill Creek Youth Camp. "We learned a lesson during the Mill Creek discussion," he explained to the Szymanskis. "We are limited to what the law says. You could do what the Mill Creek proponents did in 1999 and get the law changed."
Until that happens, Petersen added, "we don't get to the zoning issues if the OAR's can not be met.
If we (the planning commission) had known, we wouldn't have accepted you application because of the state law. I don't know why it is the law, but it is."
Petersen, with the full backing of the other commissioners, proposed one possible solution for the Szymanskis. He suggested that they withdraw their application, get legal advice and attempt to meet the administrative rules, work with the county to meet all local code requirements and reapply.
Richard Szymanski said he had not read the OAR's and couldn't respond to them. "I will research that. If I'm going to be held to this, I don't want to be discriminated against. There are churches in the EFU zone and some are awfully close to being in the UGB. This is a little issue that's being overblown," he added. "I can have people come over to my house and I could simply say these are my friends coming to visit and that's it. I don't have to come before you and get a permit."
Szymanski continued saying he was trying to do things the right way. "I have no ill intend. I'm just trying to help my friends."
Petersen responded by explaining that the planning commission has to follow the laws that are in affect at the time. "There are churches that could have been grandfathered in. The UGB line is not where it is when the church was allowed."
Zelenka explained how he believes "the county has been hammered by the state on land use issues. But," he went on, "we should get beyond the church question and look at other issues. Having a home occupation is not a singular issue. If a church can't be allowed by the state, can a home occupation?"
Although unsuccessful with his application, Szymanski told the commissioners that he believed he had been treated fairly. "I'll take your advice and withdraw my application." He did not indicate whether he would return with a new, reworked proposal.